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1. Hurricane Florence
A hulking storm surge and record-breaking rainfall wreaked havoc across North and South Carolina as Florence slammed into the state’s coast Friday. It pushed frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, bending trees and ripping roofs off homes. As it moved inland, it slowed down to a crawl, dumping massive amounts of rain and causing catastrophic flooding in a large area of the state.
The storm claimed several lives, including that of a mother and her infant child. Another person died when a tree fell on his home near Wilmington.
As Florence churned inland, millions of people were hunkering down. They could expect days of flooding, property damage and lost power.
Some areas could see up to a foot of rain. Others were bracing for massive storm surges. The storm is also creating dangerous flash flooding as it moves inland.
Hurricanes like Florence are becoming more frequent in our warmer world. Scientists say they are wetter and possess more energy, and they can intensify much faster than before.
In the past, a storm of Florence’s magnitude would have passed over land and headed out to sea. But the Carolinas’ mountains and valleys concentrate the rain in narrow, deadly streams and rivers that can quickly overtake homes, cars and highways.
Taylor McCune is a fifth generation native of Carteret County in eastern North Carolina. She grew up on the beach and went away to school, but she returned after learning her family’s farm was in the path of Florence. She created a Facebook group for the community, and now its members are helping each other with food, supplies and moral support. In some cases, they are rescuing neighbors from rising waters.
2. Boston Marathon Bombing
The oldest annual marathon in the world took place in Boston on Patriot’s Day, April 15, 2013. As tens of thousands of people gathered near the finish line to watch runners cross the tape, two explosions occurred within seconds of each other, killing three and injuring hundreds. The bombings triggered an enormous manhunt for the suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Using computer visualizations and interviews with survivors, reporters, law enforcement and those who knew the Tsarnaevs, this documentary explores what happened in the harrowing 100 hours that led to their capture and ultimate death.
A decade later, many Boston Marathon survivors are still healing. This year, a woman and a man who lost both their legs at the event ran the race with prosthetics. Their efforts inspired others to get back in the game. And at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, experts in treating amputees help those injured by the bombings find strength and resilience.
At this year’s race, 5,000 police officers lined the course and security was tight. But the event was about more than just safety. For bombing survivors, like Henry Richard whose brother was eight when killed in the 2013 bombing, it’s also about remembrance and recovery.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, conspiracy theories sprang up on mainstream and social media sites. Some of them were based on legitimate reporting; others devolved into name calling and ad hominem attacks. This Hulu docuseries takes a look at the story behind these missteps and offers some lessons for future reporting. It also highlights the efforts of a few journalists who took on the challenge to debunk rumors and counter conspiracy theories.
3. Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean and Florida, but the storm was just the beginning. It was followed by Hurricane Maria, which brought even more devastation to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Irma began as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa on Aug. 27, 2017, but rapidly strengthened to a hurricane just three days later. Its ragged eye became apparent on Sept. 2, and it reached Category 5 status a day later. By then, Irma was churning over warmer water and into a more moist atmosphere—a recipe for rapid intensification.
Its first landfall on the tiny island of Barbuda was particularly devastating, destroying 95% of buildings on the tiny, 316-square-mile island—which is about a fifth of the size of Florida—and causing severe damage to the country’s only hospital and runway at its lone airport. The island was essentially completely cut off from the rest of the world, and residents had to flee by boat or helicopter.
As Irma moved on, it weakened slightly to Category 4 over the warm waters of the Florida Straights but still had 185 mph winds. That would be the last time Irma reached such high a level of intensity.
Its weakening to Category 3 and then a Category 2 was due to a breakdown in the high-pressure ridge that Irma had been riding along. Irma then turned northwest and made two landfalls on the Florida mainland, primarily over Marco Island and Cudjoe Key.
4. California Wildfires
Since the middle of August, hundreds of wildfires have engulfed California. They’ve destroyed homes and businesses and blanketed huge areas with thick smoke. And it may not be over yet. A new fire is growing fast in northern California and threatens the town of Redding. It’s already causing widespread evacuations. And a fire in southern California has also prompted evacuations and is spreading rapidly through the Los Angeles metro area.
These and other California wildfires are being fueled by hot temperatures, drought and windy conditions. But they’re also being exacerbated by climate change, according to a new study by scientists at the Fourth National Climate Assessment. KumKum Bhagya Written Update found that high greenhouse gas emissions are increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts in the West, especially in California. And they’re reducing moisture content in forests and grasslands, making them more likely to burn.
The California wildfires are also being fueled by strong winds, called Santa Anas. They form when high pressure builds over the western US, forcing air from the inland deserts to funnel down and through coastal mountains. This air gets warm and dry as it goes through the mountains, causing windy conditions.
A recent study found that Santa Ana winds in 2022 are the worst in more than a decade. The winds are bringing the state’s highest fire danger level to “extreme,” meaning that a large fire could develop quickly.
These winds will continue for the next few days, but they should start to die down over the weekend. Humidity levels will also be improving, which will help firefighters to control the fires. It’s one of the reasons why some Bay Area homeowners and homebuilders are trying to take action to reduce their wildfire risks with new innovations.
5. Hurricane Maria
Almost 10 months after Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico, its devastating effects have continued to ripple across the island. Millions of families still do not have power, clean water or cell phone service. Access to affordable medicine and food are also in short supply. In addition to its catastrophic impact on the economy, the storm’s destruction has disproportionately affected Puerto Rico’s poorest residents — those living in rural communities and hard-to-reach areas.
The hurricane grew out of an African easterly wave that formed on September 10. At 200 PM AST (1800 UTC) on September 16 it reached tropical depression status and then strengthened into Hurricane Maria by 500 PM AST (2100 UTC) that same day. At this point it was a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 MPH.
As the center of Maria approached the USVI and Puerto Rico, its eyewall passed over Dominica on September 18, causing what Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described as “mind-boggling” devastation. In the aftermath, the storm killed dozens of people and destroyed homes, uprooting trees, destroying weather stations and cell towers, and ripping wooden or tin roofs off buildings.
The hurricane also caused flooding, mudslides, and widespread power outages. According to a recent survey, the majority of Puerto Ricans believe that it will take months before their lives return to normal.